DONUT 1: Hair of the Beard ...
After lamenting a 10-0 deficit to start the previous game, the Mavericks welcomed the league’s worst scoring defense, and a team that hadn’t pulled out a win in Dallas since February of 2003: the Sacramento Kings.
Behind a tall German player that once more looked like the Dirk Nowitzki we’ve come to know and love, and the superb play of Darren Collison and Vince Carter, the Mavs left little to lament with a convincing 123-100 win.
Dallas heads into the All-Star break with a 10-6 record in their last 16 games, including wins in three of the last four … and won’t play their next game until next Wednesday, enjoying a full week of rest.
"My focus,'' coach Rick Carlisle said, "will be getting the hell out of here. I’ll be back Sunday."
DONUT 2: Vince 'in the lake' ...
Vince Carter was a minor revelation a season ago for the Dallas Mavericks, giving more than most expected of him. This season, he’s continued to impress, perhaps even surprise, emerging as one of the better sixth men in the league, easily surpassing last year’s level of contribution … and ultimately on Wednesday passing the all-time scoring level of none other than Larry Bird.
“There were a couple of times, I was wide open, and I was like, ‘Well, they left me open so I’m going to shoot it,’ said Carter, who finished with 26 points. “And they ended up going in so it was just a great feeling.’’
Carter’s total is the second most he’s scored as a Mav. The 36-year-old was 9-of-15 on field goals and 6-of-9 on 3-pointers (those six makes a season high), with five rebounds and two steals. The veteran was at his best when he took over the third quarter, scoring 17 points by hitting 6-of-9 shots, including 5-of-7 behind the arc.
In that third quarter, with 27.9 seconds to play, Carter drained the second of what would be three straight 3-pointers, giving him 21 points for the game … and more importantly, tying him with Bird for the 29th most career points in NBA history.
With 2.9 seconds to play in the third, he nailed another three and moved into sole possession of the 29th spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Carter finished the game with 21,796 points, five more than Bird and 17 points shy of tying Gary Payton at the 28th spot.
“The rim,’’ Carter said, “looked like a lake.’’
Part of that was the suspect defense of the Kings, who have now lost 18 straight games in Dallas. But much of it was Carter being on a roll: In the last 11 games, Carter’s averages are 17 points, 48.8 field-goal percentage, 54.4 3-point percentage, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals and only 0.9 turnovers.
"He's been a great player in this league and he still has the ability to have stretches where he can be that kind of great player in terms of his high impact with streaks of shot-making, some of the playmaking things that he's able to do," said Carlisle. "It'd be hard to tell you how important he is to our team. He's still a special player."
DONUT 3: Who Deserves 'The Dirkie'? ...
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DONUT 4: Hey, I think that’s Dirk ...
The return has come more gradually than Mavs fans, or even Dirk Nowitzki himself, would have hoped, but it’s continued on.
For the second game in a row, there were more than mere glimpses of Dirk showing a return to form. Beyond the numbers, which were again solid (17 points, eight rebounds, 6-of-9 field goals, six assists, three steals and a block), it was the full arsenal proving to be readily available, the strong court movement, and a solid all-around game.
Over the last two games, Dirk averaged 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 60.1 field-goal percent, 2.5 steals, and one block.
Obviously, it’s a very small sample, but it’s nice to see Dirk looking good heading into a week of rest.
DONUT 5: Brandon who? ...
With Marc Stein breaking the news of the Mavs interest in Brandon Jennings Tuesday night and our confirming that “exploratory” interest as we opt to compare Jennings with Collison, eyes may have wandered over to the Bucks boxscore.
Jennings finished with 21 points, five assists, four steals … and four turnovers on 8-of-21 shooting in a little over 42 minutes.
Meanwhile, Darren Collison continued to quietly do his best to stake his continued claim to the Dallas starting point guard spot.
Collison finished with 18 points, nine assists, four rebounds … and only two turnovers on 7-of-12 shooting in 30 minutes.
Since being pulled from the starting lineup for Dominique Jones Dec. 23rd, Collison has shown a level of consistency that eluded him early in the season.
For these last 24 games, he has averaged: 14.2 points, 51.4 field-goal percentage, 50.0 3-point percentage, six assists, two turnovers, and 1.4 steals.
Take a moment to allow those numbers to sink in. It’s hard to ask for more from a 25-year-old point guard in his first season on a new team.
"I can’t predict the future so I can’t really comment on the trade rumors out there,'' DC said. "All I can do is play my game."
DONUT 6: Another way to look at it ...
Before we move on, we’ve seen a lot of praise for Jennings’ scoring. This isn’t meant to disparage Jennings, or unduly praise Collison. It is only meant to provide a simple point of comparison.
For the season, Collison is averaging 12.9 points on 9.5 shot attempts. Jennings is averaging 18.5 points on 16.8 shot attempts.
Pretend all conversion percentages stay the same, if you limit Jennings to 9.5 shots per game (what Collison is averaging) he would average just under 10.5 points … or about 2.4 points per game less than Collison.
It’s fair to say Jennings has a higher ceiling than Collison, and that he has never known the advantages of playing with someone the caliber of Dirk, but sometimes simple scoring numbers can be deceptive … especially with players who have shot under 40 percent for their career.
DONUT 7: The bench ...
Led by Vince Carter, the Mavs bench outscored their Sacramento counterpart 64-25, and no Dallas player that saw the court scored less than four points.
Brandan Wright finished with five points and seven rebounds, including a season high of four offensive boards … though he was uncharacteristically off the mark with his shot, hitting only 1-of-6 attempts.
Jae Crowder finished with 11 points, hitting 4-of-7 shots, 3-of-6 behind the arc.
Dallas entered the night with one of the top three scoring benches in the league at 40.1 points per game … they may move up a spot or two.
Dallas' depth, and its future, are among the topics we dish about in this week's DB.com Mavs Podcast, led by Mike "The Machine'' Marshall:
They must focus. And we must talk about it. We do so with DB.com's Roy White, Kevin Brolan and Mike "The Machine'' Marshall kicking it on this week's "stay-the-course'' DB.com Mavs Podcast:
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DONUT 9: “Clutch” Woes ...
After a pair of crucial turnovers in the final minute against Atlanta, much has been made of OJ Mayo’s turnover struggles at the most inopportune of times.
In games within three points with one minute or less to play, OJ Mayo entered Wednesday night ranked fourth worst in the NBA in turnovers per minute of guys to have played at least 10 such minutes.
Interestingly enough, given some of the names that have been included in the swirling trade rumors, two of the players who ranked worse were Jose Calderon and Josh Smith. Brandon Jennings rated just under Mayo, but had only played nine of these minutes.
Here’s their turnover numbers coming into Wednesday night stretched to a per 36 minutes basis (again, final minute of a game within three points, total of at least 10 of these minutes played): Kyrie Irving (12.0), Josh Smith (10.0), Jose Calderon (9.0), Mayo (8.6), Damian Lillard (8.3) … next up would be recent Mavs rumoree of “exploratory” talks, Brandon Jennings, at 8.0, but he had only played nine total of these minutes.
DONUT 10: And, “Clutch” Wows …
Of course, if you note the bad, you must also note the good.
Of players that had scored at least 10 total points coming into Wednesday night in this situation (final minute, within three), Mayo had the third best field-goal percentage in the NBA at 75.0 percent, trailing only Joe Johnson (87.5 percent) and Chris Paul (77.8 percent) … unfortunately, that hasn’t translated to free throws, where Mayo has been 8-of-15 (53.5 percent).
DONUT 11: Mavsellaneous …
*There are no Mavs taking part in the All-Star festivities this season. However, Bernard ‘Sarge’ James will be honored for his six years of military service as part of an NBA Cares moment.
Thank you, Bernard James.
*This was the 18th consecutive win in games held in Dallas for the Mavs against the Kings, the franchise’s longest home winning streak against any team.
*DeMarcus Cousins, a player the Mavs have clear interest in, finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and managed not to have an incident involving hitting a Dallas player for the first time in the team’s meetings this season.
*Shawn Marion had a near double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in just over 28 minutes of action.
''It seems like every night, one of our guys is breaking a record,'' said Shawn, reflecting on Vince's work. ''It's cool what we've accomplished in this league. And we got a 'W.' All that stacked on top of each other is good.''
*Dallas is now 4-3 in games started by Bernard James, who finished with five points, six rebounds and three blocks in 15:43.
*Mayo had his worst 3-point shooting night of the season, missing all seven of his attempts behind the arc. Only once in his career has he taken more than seven attempts without a make, March 13, 2012 with Memphis.
Mayo finished with 10 points, 3-of-11 shooting, one assist, three steals and three turnovers.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Though it took overtime for Dallas to put away the Kings just over a month ago in Sacramento, this was a game the Mavs were supposed to win … in a season with precious few such events. (That's 18 straight losses in Dallas for the Kings; there's your "supposed to.'')
The Mavs will head into the break six games under .500 at 23-29. There have been more than enough disappointments or let downs this season, but the opportunity to head into a week off from games in the embrace of a positive emotion was earned. The opponent didn’t matter. The outcome did.
Dallas will play only one more game prior to the Feb. 21st trade deadline, when they host the Orlando Magic next Wednesday (Feb. 20).
Could this have been the final game with this roster … the beginning of a playoff push … or simply a moment in a season that will gradually slink from irrelevancy?
Call us "homers.'' (Psssst: We ARE homers.) But we’re looking forward to finding out.